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Schools, Lies, and Videotapes

Here's a messy situation: Two former teachers at Achievement Academy Charter School in Albany, N.Y, are charging that school officials secretly planted video cameras in their classrooms.

One of the teachers, Ryan Marie Roberts, was fired shortly after the alleged videotaping, reportedly for poor performance; the other, Carol Connelly, resigned after finding a camera in her classroom. Both say they detected a camera hidden behind a sweater hanging in the back of the classroom (not exactly James Bond stuff here).

But here's the thorny part: School officials acknowledge that the classrooms were videotaped, but claim it was done as part of an evaluation system that teachers were informed of. Indeed, according to the Albany Times Union, shortly after the news of the alleged secret videotaping was first reported, the organization that manages the school, Brighter Choice Foundations, put out a press release praising the school for its effective use of videotaping for teacher evaluation.

"We do use videotaping for the betterment of the school. All teachers were made aware of it and reminded," Chris Bender, executive director of Brighter Choice, told the Troy Record.

Roberts and Connelly, however, both indicate they were not notified about the cameras. Roberts reasonably questioned why, if the videotaping was public knowledge, the camera was hidden underneath a sweater.

Connelly noted that her students were disturbed by the camera. "As soon as students saw it, they became really upset," said Connelly. "They said they felt violated and they brought up that their parents didn't sign anything about it."

Connelly has also reportedly claimed that the school systematically allows students to cheat on standardized tests--a charge Bender also denies.

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